23 SES 10 B, Evidence Based Approaches to Policy Making
This paper presents a comprehensive review of existing research on data use in education with emphasis on the main characteristics and results of the research identified.
Current European and international policies, advocate the use of data by local authorities, school leaders, and teachers to evaluate and improve practices in order to enhance student performance. Practices of data use relate to accountability as policies of action. In this regard, a range of European countries have implemented a relatively new set of governing approaches that emphasise the combined power of performance measurement and hands-on management. By the use of quality indicators, goal setting, accountability which is often linked to incentives or sanctions, and competition, school leaders and teachers are expected to initiate concrete actions in order to upgrade student achievement (cf. Fuller, 2008). Such data use represents the centerpiece of what is often referred to as evidence-based governing regimes, presented as an ideal way of coordinating activities on different levels in the school system (Ozga, 2009).
Despite the emphasis on educational accountability, particularly over the last decade, data use has been a relatively understudied area in Europe, while there has been more research conducted in the USA in this area (e.g., Coburn & Turner, 2011; Little, 2012; Spillane, 2012;). A general finding in this body of research is that the ways in which data are used depend on a range of factors related to organizational routines, such as access to data, time schedules, norms of interaction, and leadership (Coburn & Turner, 2011). School leadership is found to be especially important for productive data use (e.g., Jensen & Møller, 2012); increased collaboration among teachers and a stronger focus on developing and justifying education praxis are also indicated (Datnow, 2011). On the other hand leaders can also create counterproductive conditions (Hallett, 2010), leading to education praxis that does not nurture student engagement and learning. Initiating data use in several countries as a core element in school-governing structures and processes highlights the need for further knowledge about the characteristics of existing research on this issue, in terms of the research methods, the country and the contexts from which the studies are derived, and the substantiated conclusions in these studies.
With this as a backdrop, and in particular noting the relatively strong Anglo-American bias in the literature, we investigate the characteristics and the results of European education research on data use. The focus of our study is grounded in the following questions: What characterise European research on data use and what are the main results of this body of research? The review approach provides an overview of characteristics of the research in the field such as country of origin, study contexts, authors, time of publication, research methods and main findings. It also enables identification of potential research gaps that might give direction for further studies in the field.
The review study draws on a theoretical framework developed by Coburn and Turner (2011). Practices of data use are here defined as what happens when individuals interact by using test scores, grades, and other forms of assessment tools in their work (Coburn & Turner, 2011; Spillane, 2012). The figure below identifies the key dimensions that shape data uses in political and organizational contexts, as well as the existing data, which again will affect potential outcomes.
The framework pinpoints areas of theorizing and construct development in the research on data use in education, thus providing a theoretical foundation for the focus of this review study.
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